In 2008 Atlas Model Railroad Co., Inc.
released a brand new model in HO, the ALCO HH600/HH660 Locomotive
, part of their top–of–the–line Master Line
series. This review is of an Atlas Master™ Series Silver version of the popular model. The Silver selection is without a DDC decoder and sound, yet DCC Ready. (The Master™ Series Gold features electronic Dual-Mode® Decoder (e-DMD) that allows your locomotive to run in DCC or traditional DC, plus a QSI® Quantum System™.)
This sample HH600/660 is Item 10 001 589
the Tennessee Central No.50
. Why "HH600/660"? See the history at the end of this review.
Master™ Silver Series HH600/660
Atlas packages this model in a telescoping lid-tray carton. The lid has a clear sheet viewing window to display the model. Inside, the model is secured in a three-piece plastic cradle which is different from previous rigs I have encountered; the third piece is a hard plastic base to which the locomotive is affixed by two screws. Each end is buttressed by foam blocks. Thus it can not shift about and scuff. It is also unlikely to topple out of the cradle if one handles it clumsily. (Don't ask how I know.) The screws hold the loco where the fuel tank is located, and the fuel tank is detached from the model.
A small bag of fine metal chains is included. Each has an fine wire eye loop on one end.
An exploded-diagram line art parts sheet is included. It shows all parts and components, most with its part number. However, while well detailed, it provides no guidance as to how to attach or detach anything. Some handrails attach major components together and can be damaged without careful inspection of what part anchors where. Also, while close examination revels tiny pre-drilled holes under the chassis near the trucks, one is left to deduce that they are for the chain eye bolts to insert into. Those eye bolts are shown on the parts diagram but they are not identified. Nor are they shown attached to the chains; the chains are shown next to chain clasps, items I do not see on the chains; finally, it does not show where the chains attach to the truck sideframes.
That window allows for a good first impression. I immediately noticed a sharply molded and detailed model. The styrene shell is sharply molded and detailed with molded-on/in hood access doors with hinge and latch detailing, a radiator cooling vent, rivet detail and such. This HH600/660 is modeled after the post-1936 production switchers, restyled by industrial designer Otto Kuhler with rounded corners. Stylin', even for switch engines ("Shunters" to our UK friends).
The model is engineered with plastic frames on metal trucks and wheels, a cast metal chassis frame for weight, an injection molded body shell and a sill, detailed with plastic and metal parts. It is further equipped with AccuMate® knuckle couplers. Inside the body is the motor, dual flywheel drive shafts and electrical suite. The detached fuel tank assembly and the truck chains must be added by the modeler.
This compact utilitarian switcher model has a lot to see, featuring:
• All new tooling
• Early Blunt truck with separate brake cylinders, molded coil spring detail (optional) and metal truck chains
• Separately-applied metal grab irons and lift rings
• Separately-applied fine scale handrails and stanchions, coupler cut lever and piping
• Directional lighting with golden-white LEDs
• Five-pole skewed armature motor with dual flywheels for optimum performance at all speeds
• NMRA 8-pin plug for DCC (Decoder-ready)
Additionally, Atlas crews the cab with an engineer figure. They even included basic cab interior with an instrument panel. Another feature of the cab detail are two rear windows molded as cocked open for ventilation.
As mentioned above, Atlas includes optional metal chains that kept the trucks from scooting off if the real-life loco derailed. (The model's are secured to the frame.)
Detail molded onto the the styrene shell is sharply defined: hood access doors with hinge and latch detailing; rivet detail.
Enhancing the visual authenticity of this 'goat' (switching locomotive) are all of those individual applied detail goodies:
air compressor cover
air reservoir piping set
coupler cut levers
hand brake and stand
handrails and stanchions
hood air lines (L&R)
sand filler caps
separate brake cylinders
Atlas even molded the radiator roof fan open and put a wire mesh screen in it.
However, this is one 'brownie'* I'll issue - there is no fan inside and you can see model wiring. This is no doubt a tradeoff between equipping the relatively small locomotive with all the components to make it run yet be DCC capable. If it bothers me too much I'll just paint the wire black.
Regardless, this is a good looking switcher. Dimensionally the locomotive has no flaws. I also tested the height of the couplers. They checked out correctly above the rails.
The Tennessee Central Railway, The Nashville Route
, bought HH600 No.50 in 1939, their first diesel-electric. While TC chose an attractive maroon and white livery for their road power, No.50 wore work-a-day black until she was scrapped in 1963. White trim gave her a muted éclat. This livery is smoothly and opaquely applied and does not obscure any of the fine surface detail.
There is a minimum of railroad and data stenciling. Yet it is amazingly sharp and legible - look at the ends of the air reservoirs. The main splash of color - a faux bronze - is the ALCO builder's plate above the sill at the end of the cab. While not crystal clear, the lettering allows one to read AMERICAN LOCOMOTIVE COMPANY, SCHENECTADY NEW YORK, plus the locomotive number and date.
This new run of this locomotive (both for Silver and Gold series offerings) offers eight roadnames and an undecorated model:
1. Atlantic Coast Line (Purple/Silver)
2. Boston & Albany (Black/White)
3. Hoboken Manufacturers (Black/Gold)
4. Louisville & Nashville (Black/White)
5. Minneapolis & St. Louis (Black/White/Yellow)
6. Santa Fe (Black/Silver "Zebra Stripes")
7. Southern Pacific (Black/Orange "Halloween")
8. Tennessee Central (Black/White)
Only one engine number is available for most units, while two are offered for B&A, AT&SF and SP. Other railroads were offered in prior releases.
So she looks good, but can she run? I tested the model, straight out of the box with no break-in period, on Atlas Code 83 Flex-Track, through a No.6 turnout, and over a Peco code 80 single-slip switch. Power was from Atlas' Universal Power Pack.
No.50 started off smooth and never hesitated. The directional lighting worked as advertised. I did not attempt to test any electrical draw. However, as you may hear in the video, the unit surprisingly growls. Whether that is from the motor or gearing of the trucks, it could mar the sound of the QSI® Quantum System™ equipped Master™ Series Gold models. (Please see View This Item
below the Summary box at the end of this review for what details the Gold series offers.)
Bearing in mind that model railroaders tend to be smarter than the average bear, this is still a weak area between Atlas and the modeler. That exploded-diagram line art parts sheet? It shows all parts and components, most with its part number. However, while well detailed, it provides no guidance as to how to attach or detach anything. Some handrails attach major components together and can be damaged without careful inspection of what part anchors where. Also, while close examination revels tiny pre-drilled holes under the chassis near the trucks, one is left to deduce that they are for the chain eye bolts to insert into. Those eye bolts are shown on the parts diagram but they are not identified. Nor are they shown attached to the chains; the chains are shown next to chain clasps, items I do not see on the chains; finally, it does not show where the chains attach to the truck sideframes. (Those have small loops molded on each upper corner.)
It is not surprising this model is popular for Atlas. It looks and performs very good. Many factory-applied separate parts enhance the model's already fine molding, including the fine handrails. Separately packed optional chains are a nice touch. As is the engineer and cab interior. Smooth running performance is delightful. Paint and printing is first rate.
Two things detract to one degree or another. The wonderful open screen over the radiator fan housing allows one to see bright wiring. The model is surprisingly noisy, although breaking it in and perhaps lubrication will mitigate the sound.
The lack of assembly/disassembly guidance can vex inexperienced modelers.
Overall this Master™ Silver Series HH600/660
impresses me. I will be happy to integrate it into my layout and perhaps even add a DCC board. Yes, I do recommend it.
Atlas models are available from all good toy and model retailers. For details visit http://www.atlasrr.com or https://www.facebook.com/atlastrains.
Thanks to Atlas for letting us review this model! Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on
As Atlas Model Railroad relates
Between 1931 and 1940 ALCO built 177 high hood (HH) switching locomotives of various horsepower ratings and body styles. The “HH” models were forerunners to the popular S-series of switchers which featured lower hoods. ALCO’s high hood switchers were in production long before similar models from competitors EMC/EMD (1935) and Baldwin (1937). Interestingly, the “HH” model designation is a term coined by rail historians to describe what ALCO documentation had simply referred to as 600-hp or 660-hp switchers. In later years ALCO had referred to these early units as “high hood switchers” so this designation is appropriate.
Of the 177 high hood switchers built, 104 were HH600s, 18 were HH660s, 21 were HH900s and 34 were HH1000s. Some of the largest users of these models included New Haven, Lackawanna and New York Central. Various physical changes occurred during the 9 years these locomotives were in production. The biggest change occurred in 1934 when ALCO hired industrial designer Otto Kuhler to improve the appearance of their very boxy, utilitarian switchers. The post-1937 production units we are now offering featured many of his suggested improvements.
In 1938 ALCO introduced a line of high hood switchers powered by the new model 538 diesel engine which featured a cast iron engine block. This engine was offered in both a 660-hp (non-turbocharged 538) and 1000-hp (turbocharged 538-T) switcher, each weighing approximately 196,000 pounds. The horsepower rating could be adjusted downward slightly per customer specification by lowering the RPM of the diesel engine. Therefore, 600-hp and 900-hp models were offered concurrently. The HH600 and HH660 locomotive models we are offering were produced from 1938 to 1940 and were externally identical.
If you like "gee-whiz" data, The Diesel Shop lists this table
Engine Builder: Alco Engine: 4-cycle Model 531 6L
Bore & Stroke 12.5" X 13.0"
RPM (Maximum / Minimum) 700 / 300
Main Generator: GE - GT 526 / 551A1 Horsepower: 600
Gear Ratio: 68:16 Speed: 40 mph
Trucks: Blunt 4-Wheel Configuration: B-B
Traction Motor Blowers: Electrical Driven (2) Model: ?
Weight: 206,120 lbs Traction Motors: GE 287D/E (four)
Tractive Effort (starting) 59,700 @ 25% Tractive Effort (continuous): 28,000 lbs @ 4.8 mph
Multiple Unit Capability: No Dynamic Braking: -
Auxilary Generator: -- Alternator: --
Air Brake: Westinghouse Model: 14EL
Compressor: GE Model: CP26
Exterior Dimensions HH-600
Total Length 43'-05"
Pilot to Pilot 39'-05"
Wheel Diameter 40"
Truck Wheel Base 8'-00"
Height to Top Engine Hood 14'-05 3/4"
Height to Top Cab Hood 14'-05 3/4"
Cab Width 10'-00"
Top Walkway Width 9'-07 1/2"
Walkway Width 5'-00"
Engine Hood Width 9'-10"
Center Bolster 20'-02"
Center Front Truck to Front Pilot 2'-06"
Center Rear Tucrk to Rear Pilot 1'-09"
Distance between Truck Centers 29'-08"
Minimum Turning Radious 50 degrees
Fuel Oil: 635
Lubricating Oil: 80
Engine Cooling Water: 50
Sand Capacity: 27 cu. ft.**
The Tennessee Central Railway, The Nashville Route
The Tennessee Central Railway was a classic fallen flag system whose history could perhaps be most associated with a company like the New York, Ontario & Western; its circuitous and hilly route could never really compete against its larger neighbors which eventually forced into liquidation in the late 1960s. The TC's history dated to the late 19th century as the Nashville & Knoxville Railroad and the early difficulties in just getting this route completed was a precursor of things to come. The TC became a favorite amongst railfans when it began to acquire American Locomotive Company (Alco) diesel road-switchers in the 1950s. It eventually came to own an entire fleet of Alcos, save for a few Baldwins, which remained on the company's roster until it finally went under. Today, what is left of the TC remains in use between Norfolk Southern and shortlines Nashville & Eastern and Nashville & Western while other sections have been turned into rail/trails.
The history of the TC begins with the chartering of the Nashville & Knoxville Railroad in 1884 by Alexander Crawford to link both cities and move predominantly coal between those points. Construction on the line began in 1888 and by 1894 the N&K had opened 76 miles between Lebanon (near Nashville) and Monterey (about the midway point) before Crawford's untimely death. The new railroad quickly ran into funding issues and with the primary leadership gone the construction stalled. Unfortunately, this was just a foreboding of the problems later experienced by the TC. With the N&K stuck where it was the line was purchased by Jere Baxter in August, 1893 as he had just chartered the Tennessee Central Railroad with the same hopes as Crawford, to connect Knoxville with Nashville.
Following a reorganization as the Tennessee Central Railway in 1897 the new operation had completed an eastward extension from Monterey to Emory Gap in 1900, 54 miles in all, leaving about 40 miles to reach Knoxville. The line, however, would extend no further east except to Harriman (about two miles away) and the TC had to settle for a connection with the Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway (CNO&TP), a subsidiary of the Southern. Despite this, Baxter was able to see the eastern end of his system fan out quite prodigiously; through 1904 he added coal branches to Wilder, Isoline, and Fall Creek (all of these spurs were between 2 and 21 miles in length). Essentially, this completed the Eastern Division of the TC although at the same it had been expanding westward as well; also in 1904 it had reached Nashville, putting pressure on the Louisville & Nashville (although its hopes to serve the city's downtown area was cutoff by its larger competitor), and purchased the Nashville & Clarksville Railroad.
The takeover of the N&C saw the TC reaching all of the way into southern Kentucky at Hopkinsville and a connection with the Illinois Central. Once again, tragedy struck the company when Baxter passed away in 1904, which also left it in poor shape financially due to the aggressive expansion that had taken place during his watch. As a result, in June, 1905 it was leased to its major interchange partners (IC, L&N, and Southern) which operated portions of the railroad until it returned to independence in 1908. This lasted for only a few years as the TC remained financially weak and again entered receivership in 1912. Here it remained until 1922 when a group of investors purchased the property and kept the Tennessee Central Railway name. Led by Hugh Wright Stanley, which already had experience in railroad management, the company was brought back from the brink and actually began to post profits for the first time in its history.
Stanley remained at the TC for 32 years and under his leadership the railroad also saw one final extension, a branch from Stone River (near Nashville) to Old Hickory along the Cumberland River, which eventually saw the line served by a DuPont chemical plant. He was able to lead the railroad through the depression years of the 1930s, which saw it remain profitable through the end of World War II. As with the original N&K, coal was always the TC's most important source of traffic and it increased its tonnage with the commodity during the 1950s when the Tennessee Valley Authority opened its Kingston Steam Plant near Harriman in February, 1954. Unfortunately, by late that decade it began losing its main source of traffic when the TVA moved its coal contracts to other mines not served by the TC.
Additionally, mines the railroad had served for several years were beginning to play out and, sadly, by 1960 it was again posting deficits, never again to show a profit. As the red ink deepened it tried to diversify traffic by moving other freight, such as trailer-on-flat-car movements (TOFC) and in its desperation even contemplated running passenger trains once more (which it ultimately decided against). While profitable, TOFC accounted for barely $50,000 in annual income and by 1967 its deficits had mounted to $10 million, including a $4.5 million loan owed to the government it had taken out in 1950. The railroad filed for bankruptcy on January 14, 1968 and after an attempt to save the company by the state of Tennessee (which was vetoed by Governor Buford Ellington) the railroad was liquidated as of September 1, 1968. Sections of the line were acquired by neighbors IC, Southern, and L&N.
"The Tennessee Central Railway, The Nashville Route." American-Rails.com.
American-Rails.com, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. .
* BROWNIES — Demerits. This system is traced back to George R. Brown, general superintendent of the Fall Brook Railway (now part of the New York Central) in 1885. He thought the then current practice of suspending men for breaking rules was unfair to their families and substituted a system of demerit marks. Too many demerits in a given period resulted in dismissal. The Brown system, with many variations, has since been widely adopted by the railroad industry. A superintendent's private car is called brownie box or brownie wagon.
**Bachand, Jean-Denis. "Alco HH-660 Data Sheet." Alco HH-660 Data Sheet. The Diesel Shop, 9 May 2005. Web. 06 May 2015. .